Evolved Journey Mapping and Accelerated Learning

Leveraging journey mapping differently and focusing on training to instill empathy allows your agents to collect and leverage sentiment in real time and create lasting relationships with your customers.

Before I share our approach to journey mapping read my last post on Building Human Connection and Why Sentiment is the Core.

Journey Mapping

Since 60% of organizations report having journey maps, you likely have seen or built journey maps already. The challenge with the vast majority of journey maps we encounter is that they are request based, not member focused. The assumed commonality in these journey maps immediately moves us away from the critical factors of empathy: Critical Listening, Conversation, and Investigation. We need to create journey maps that get down to the agent-customer connection level.

Efficient transactional processes will not help your customers view you as a trusted advisor.


In the contact center, it all begins with the probing questions your agent asks at the start of the call. Most probing techniques used today are all about us. For example, what’s your member id? Your date of birth? What question do you have? This series of questions is well intentioned to allow the agent to move to an answer quickly. However, this takes sentiment as a tool we can leverage away.

In our new approach, we open a call by asking, “How can I help you”? This shift allows your customer to share their issue quickly and have control over the content of the call. They will start talking about their problems immediately. They may say something like, “I thought this was all handled, my son is still sick, and now I have a huge bill.”

From here, when appropriately trained, an agent can extract a lot of information.

  • The question: Why did my claim get denied?
  • Insight to who the call is about: dependent male member
  • Level of stress and mood
  • Understanding the feeling of financial pressure
  • Level of knowledge about the plan and process
  • The real question they didn’t ask: Do I have to pay this bill?

With a new approach to probing we can respond with “gee I think I have your sons record right here, can you confirm the member ID?” We’re getting the information we need but in a very different way and once we’ve allowed them a moment to vent.

In the traditional approach, we would have been talking about why the claim was denied but have left the real question on the table.


Now your agents have a unique opportunity to guide the sentiment. We believe that empowering agents with the tools they need to hear the sentiment right away and move to a place where it can change leads to drastically higher levels of success in the contact center.

This change occurs within the call, not after it ends. Venting is something we’ve been scared of for years. When a customer starts venting, you feel you’ve lost control of the call. In our old approach to measurement, this meant a long call, getting a supervisor involved, threating to take business elsewhere, etc. We’ve been afraid that venting changes the amount of time it takes to complete a call. But if we can start to think about venting as a way for customers to express themselves and deliver clarity of sentiment to us, we have an opportunity to engage and measure differently.

Probing through journey mapping allows a lot of learning. The benefits of this learning are that we no longer have to guess if we’ve made an impact – we immediately know! However, this approach takes a different level of skill and therefore shifted approach to training.

A Different Agent

To become an advisor, you need a different type of agent in your contact center. In healthcare specifically, this agent is made up of the following:

It takes different skills to create a different type of agent.

You never want to practice on your customer. You have to look at your agents as superheroes. But you can’t just walk down the street and buy superheroes. You have to build them. Building superhero agents are where your in-house learning programs become mission critical. Having technical expertise and empathy at the same time is very complicated.

The Zelus PACE™ program

The PACE™ program stands for:

  • Proficiency
  • Accuracy
  • Confidence
  • Empathy
How the PACE™ program curricula compares to traditional training programs.

This program changes the agent’s progression. Here is what the curriculum looks like and how it compares to standard curricula.

We deliver the PACE™ program in the same or less time than typical programs. If you want to see what the full 10-day journey looks like or some specific improvement metrics from this program, let us know.

Part of what allows the PACE™ program to accomplish incredible results is that we teach soft skills and industry-specific skills in unison. In complex industries, you don’t have the luxury of training these things in isolation.

Check out the recorded session that Jenny led here which covers sentiment recognition, a case study, and even more insights into journey mapping and our PACE™ program and how it can help organizations like yours.

Building Human Connection and Why Sentiment is the Core

How do you build meaningful emotional bonds and a human connection with your customers? How do you understand the status of your relationship?

To accomplish this and become a real advisor to your customers you have to make customer intent and sentiment priorities of your organization.

The outcome of your entire organization is visible in the contact center. And contact centers expose everything that’s going well and not so well to your customers across every department of the organization.

When your agents are empowered to build human connections, you can deliver the brand experience you want to put into the marketplace and create a powerful feedback loop across all teams.

Why does customer sentiment lead to human connection?

The ultimate goal of all the metrics you invest time and energy into tracking is to understand whether or not you’re meeting the needs of your customers. There has been a long evolution of contact center metrics. From the simple measurement of handle time, accuracy, resolution to customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promoter score (NPS), for instance.  None of these metrics can be ignored or avoided. However, they are all giving you generalized, rear view mirror feedback on how your customers feel about you.

Sentiment is entirely different, mainly if you can capture it in real-time. And customer sentiment is the only metric that is about them!

Beyond Measurement

To create a real human connection you have to go beyond measurement and metrics. And sentiment gives agents a different kind of power if they hear it as it unfolds.

To get there, you need a different approach to probing – this puts empathy on the table. It starts with listening. Are you determining the spoken and unspoken questions and concerns they’re expressing? What is happening in the course of the conversation? It’s not transactional. It’s a two-way dialogue. You’ll never become an advisor to your customer if you’re transacting.

Human Connections are based on Emp-A-ThyInvestigation is the final component. Now the agent has listened, conversed, and connected. Next, they must know enough about the subject matter to answer the spoken and unspoken questions of your customer. When an agent can deliver this experience, with empathy, your customer will have established a human connection. They will believe that you are capable of advising them and completing the story.

Read part two of this post where we dive into journey mapping and building your training programs around customer intent. You can also check out a recorded session that Jenny led here or learn more about our PACE™ program here.

Top 5 Traits of an Exemplary Trainer

Are you looking to hire or become an exemplary trainer? Top training professionals are in high demand and are critical for successful projects or rollouts.  Being an exemplary trainer is not rocket science. There is a formula used to become or select these elite training professionals.

When I look to hire trainers, I am selective (ok, super picky) and look beyond resume basics.   As a supporter of improving training efforts across the industry, I thought I’d share with you, the five traits that guide my process for hiring exemplary trainers.

  1. Rapid Command of the Material. Look for a trainer who has experience with learning new material quickly and can cite specific examples of how they infuse their own experience into the content during execution.  This promotes relatability, relevance, and absorption of the subject matter.  This allows trainers to be confident and have the freedom to adapt their teaching techniques.  This enables them to encourage participants to learn from themselves and the entire class; creating as many organic learning moments as possible. If they don’t know an answer, they don’t guess; they know where to get the correct response.  Trainers need to ensure that learners absorb the critical material and can adopt the positive changes to come.  Ask questions of the candidates and their references that help you determine this ability.
  2. Preparation & Practice. An exemplary trainer makes delivering a class look straightforward and seamless. Skilled trainers come with detailed and effective preparation strategies.  In the interview process, ask them their specific steps of their preparation for learning a curriculum. For example, an exemplary trainer may read through the material twice in its’ entirety to get an overall feel for the flow of the course.  They break down each module, highlighting and marking their instructors guide for crucial Next, they rehearse each module aloud in front of a mirror or by recording themselves to validate their timing.   Trainers should not practice on students. We suggest having them demonstrate their skill and ability through a structured Train-the-Trainer program and graded teach-back process. This is where you inspect what you expect regarding their preparation, session openings, transitions, questioning techniques, use of technology and creating an environment ripe for learning.
  3. Rhythm & Energy. There are ebbs and flows in energy during any training class. An exemplary trainer is in tune with their energy level and of their students. A quality trainer knows when dry or detailed content is coming up, and they adjust their delivery accordingly. A skilled trainer is keenly aware when learners are tuning out, restless, or distracted. They know purposeful engagement is critical. A talented trainer communicates the information in a way that ensures learners understand the material and can implement it immediately out on the floor.  Seek to understand how they use the latest adult learning methodologies to facilitate engaging learning experiences, even for seasoned attendees.
  4. Corporate Savvy, Strategic Thinkers.An exemplary trainer should possess strong business acumen and grasp how the training process affects the overall business. This understanding of the “Big Picture” of how their training ties in, will support the objectives of the project.  Exemplary trainers consider the greater vision of the firm and how their role affects the entire organization. Is your trainer experienced in quickly “crossing borders” by strategically partnering with counterparts from other departments within the organization like Operations, HR, and Marketing? These essential corporate relationships combined with strategic thinking, help to strengthen the bonds between departments and foster an environment of cooperation and unity within your project.  Get specific examples of how they have incorporated this mind set into their daily training activities during past projects.
  5. Trainers are Evaluators. Exemplary trainers must be skilled in evaluating learners and measuring understanding as they train. They do this deliberately through keen observation skills, analyzing student interaction and validating content absorption via knowledge checks. It is NOT about the grade on a test; it comes down to the trainees being able to understand and practically apply the material they have learned! Trainers need to ensure learners can effectively implement the training in their specific role. This is an indispensible and hard to find trait that comes only from experience and honing their craft in learning and development. Ask how your potential trainers assess skill levels before, during and after training. 

Do you see these five skills exhibited by your trainers? We do in ours! How do you gain insight into the behaviors of exemplary trainers? Be picky, observe, inspect and ask for specific, detailed examples of how these traits are demonstrated in and out of the classroom.

Zelus’ Certified Trainers are an elite group of the most experienced facilitation experts in the industry.   These five traits are a part of their DNA. When it comes to a seamless implementation of a call center roll-out or initiative, our trainers are handpicked to match our core beliefs when it comes to knowledge, expertise, and passion. We are discerning and only use the savviest, most experienced learning and development professionals in the industry.

 To learn more about our suite of services and the additional benefits of partnering with Zelus for your training needs, please contact us at (781) 738-3145 or  info@zelusllc.com.


Mary Anne Polson is a Learning and Development professional with an extensive background of over 20 years as a Training Manager and Trainer at major multinational corporations. She follows her passion of helping others achieve success in Customer Service, Sales, & Call Centers through her work 

Instructional Design Restructure, A Case Study


A regional health care company that offers a broad spectrum of group and network-based health care products to over 3.6 million members.


The Instructional Design Team was under performing. The training material was outdated, the material lacked industry standard best practices and adult learning techniques and was often incomplete. The training resulted in contact center agents not being ready for their role.


Zelus used their extensive knowledge of the health care industry, contact centers and instructional design skills to complete a needs analysis of all the contact center teams; and reviewed all the training material in the department. From the needs analysis Zelus re-imaged and updated all training material for new hire classes, gap training classes, new system training and the company’s product training.


  • Redesigned the training material for all lines of business, including Medicare and Medicare Advantage; over 750 documents.
  • Increased speed to market for new and revised material. The Zelus team worked 3x faster than the industry standard across the entire engagement.
  • Incorporated robust hands-on exercises in training that spanned multiple systems.
  • Built assessments to predict the capability of the trainee to do the job.
  • Established the use of state of the art web-based training as a best practice for delivering awareness training to agents.
  • Implemented a training approach that resulted in floor-ready trainees that met quality and productivity goals.
  • Launched new contact channels, more than 10 software applications, and Healthcare Reform and Medicare Products.

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Call Center Optimization & Technical Implementation, A Case Study


A nationally recognized and trusted consumer brand committed to helping members create and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


The company was preparing for a significant product change anticipating that membership would increase substantially. The contact center had long lacked the focus and attention required to infuse the brand experience across inbound calls, emails, and online chats. The contact center was preparing for a significant ramp up in volume while it lacked technology solutions to support its agents.


  • Developed a road map to achieve short-term launch efficiencies and long-term operational vision for the contact center. Created an operational launch plan to handle a large customer increase without creating excessive costs.
  • Based on organizational decision to build a proprietary CRM system, the client used Zelus’ extensive contact center expertise and skilled staff to define business and functional requirements, manage prioritization, lead UAT efforts, train staff, and provide application deployment and launch support.
  • Developed comprehensive blended learning, virtual and classroom program with WBT at its core; resulting in a quick, accurate, and consistent training for over 400 agents.
  • Created RFI requests for contact center voice, chat and knowledge management solutions defining best practice needs within each channel. Key member of the selection process for all three solutions.
  • Created operational improvements to shift the nature of contact center contacts from largely administrative to a more value-added support model.
  • Comprehensively reviewed all content in organizational content management system to align to new system launches and reflect the brand


Since the effort started, the contact center:

  • Reduced contacts per member by 29%
  • Reduced cost per contact by more than 35%
  • Delivered more than $20M in savings to the organization
  • Achieved a 4-point gain in first contact resolution
  • Supported at 25% membership increase while improving performance

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